YES! Weekly’s ten best summertime activites

by Brian Clarey


By the time this issue finds its way into your sweaty little hands it should be right around June 21, the summer solstice and the imaginary barrier between the season of renewal and the season of oppressive heat. That’s right: it’s gonna get hot, people. You, and most definitely your kids, are gonna want to go swimming at some point before the front lawn turns brown. Put ’em all in the minivan and head to some of the area’s best swimming holes like the outdoor ones at Bur-Mil Park (5834 Owl’s Roost Road, 336.373.3800), Lindley Park (2907 Springwood Drive; 336.299.3226), or City Lake Park in Jamestown (602 W. James St.; 336.883.3501).

Light off some fireworks

Recent transplants from places where explosives are more strictly controlled will be amazed that they can buy fireworks at the grocery store, gas station or under a tent in the parking lot of a strip mall. The tendency with fireworks is to overbuy, but here’s a little summertime secret: there is no such thing as ‘“too many fireworks.’” If I were you I’d clean out the trunk and fill it with rockets, whizzers, spinners, candles, shooters, bangers, whistlers, smokers and sparklers. Then I’d light ’em all off and fill the trunk up again.

Cook something in the backyard over an open flame

Chicken. Ribs. Brisket. T-bones. Fish. Portobella mushrooms. Potatoes wrapped in foil. Whole ears of corn. Everything tastes better when it’s cooked outside. Everything. And there’s something about firing up the grill, particularly a charcoal grill, and letting the smoke waft through the neighborhood, usually inspiring a chain reaction of sorts as the neighbors spark their own fire pits and whip up batches of their secret marinades. You’ve got to do it at least once, and afterwards you can whip out some of those fireworks.

Take a trip to the beach

North Carolina is home to some of the cleanest and most pristine beaches in the nation. Ocracoke, for example, hanging way out in the Atlantic, routinely makes the top ten list of Dr. Beach (AKA Dr. Stephen Leatherman). Nags Head, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills in the north; Oak Island, Kure and Wrightsville in the south and dozens of spots in between with names like Carolina, Sunset and Atlantic. And if your idea of the beach includes things like biker chicks with exposed buttock tattoos, drunken ‘“Whoo-hoos’” shouted from rolling Jeeps or marathon sessions of drunken golf, there’s always Myrtle.

Go to a pig-picking

Everybody (well, almost everybody) knows that pork is good for the soul, and here in pig country ‘— sorry, pork country ‘— we know what to do when we get our hands on a swine: kill it, gut it, throw it on a cooker and tell everybody to come over with some beer. There’s no better way to eat pig than by picking it off the carcass with your fingers, peeling off pieces of skin, wiggling loose ribs and hopefully getting a piece of the fat that’s liquefied and rendered into a piece of crispy, amber glass by the heat. If you’ve got one in the works, seriously, give me a call.

Buy a new bathing suit

For some buying a new bathing suit is more pleasurable than for others. It’s yet another area, along with the gifts of superior flatulence and getting a pass on that whole childbirth thing, where men get the better deal. For the most part, as long as we don’t buy a Speedo we’re pretty much okay. For women, I’m told, buying a bathing suit can be something of an ordeal. That being said, everybody needs a new suit for the summer, even if they’re only going to wear it once to shoot through the Slip-n-Slide in the backyard.

Get married

According to the internet, about 35 percent of American weddings take place in the summer, with June and August being the most popular months to get going on life’s little three-legged race. And if you don’t plan on getting married this summer (it’s not too late, you know’… there’s always Vegas), chances are you’ve been invited to one in the coming months. Or if you feel an undeniable urge to do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around (because that, my friends, is what it’s all about) you could just cruise local catering halls and country clubs until you find one. Tell ’em you’re with the bride.

Catch a fish and eat it

From Outer Banks to interior coastline to rivers, lakes and creeks, we’ve got water all over the place in this state teeming with tasty swimmers. There’s bream and stripers out in lake country; flounder as big as toilet seats in the flats and, if you can hitch a ride out to the Gulf Stream (just a few miles off the coast of Hatteras) you can land amberjack, wahoo, king mackerel, dolphin (relax; we’re not talking about flipper here but a fish also known as mahi-mahi), sea bass, cobia (the new sea bass, culinarily speaking), yellowfin and maybe, if you’ve got the forearms for it, a marlin. If you can’t catch a fish in North Carolina you are what we used to call on the playground a ‘“lame-o’” but you can still get yourself to a fish house and have some clams.

Read a trashy book

While it is completely inappropriate to look at a porno magazine in, say, a doctor’s office or, even worse, poolside, it is socially acceptable to ingest smut in public as long as it is in the form of the written word. This summer all the horndogs will be reading tell-all memoirs like Gael Greene’s Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess and The Washningtonienne by promiscuous blogger Jessica Cutler; vampire porn like Danse Macabre, the newest Anita Blake story by Laurell K. Hamilton, or Definitely Dead, a chapter of the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris; or, if you’re not embarrassed by the titles you read, The Debutante Divorcee: a Novel. If you haven’t read The DaVinci Code yet, don’t bother. That whole thing is played.

See a big, dumb summer blockbuster

There looks to be some pretty great movies coming out this summer, but for every The Heart of the Game there’s a Nacho Libre, which is fine because we all want something different from our summer movie fare. I personally will make an effort to avoid anything with Adam Sandler, Jet Li, anyone who is billed as ‘“rapper-turned-actor’” or even one solitary Wayan. I do plan on seeing Superman Returns (you know, with the kids); Wordplay, the documentary about New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and maybe the Will Ferrell NASCAR thing.